Blog

Why Seattle Adaptive Sports Supports Sonics Arena

by Tami English
Director of Seattle Adaptive Sports with player Nick Weiss

As the Executive Director of Seattle Adaptive Sports, the only organization in Western Washington that provides wheelchair basketball opportunities for both young people and adults, I wanted to share why we are such active supporters of the new Arena proposal.

Prior to the Sonics leaving town, they were an important community partner for our organization and had great influence on many of our young people. To this day, one of our teams remains the Junior Sonics! They were a great partner and provided uniform donations, player appearances, and direct financial support. As an organization, we greatly benefited from their support.

But the contribution they made — and will, I have no doubt, make again when they return — is much broader and stronger than jerseys and money. For the young people we work with, it is about giving these kids a sense of pride and self-esteem that travels with them off the court and back into their daily lives.

Each year, our youth teams were given the opportunity to play during halftime at a Sonics game. The kids would take the court and play a short game and the spectators were always on their feet, cheering our players, rooting for their shots and celebrating their points. After halftime, our kids would receive high fives from perfect strangers who weren’t focused on their wheelchair or disability, but rather their ability to move quickly down the court, dodging other wheelchairs or deftly making a shot from thirty feet away. To say that this had a positive impact on these kids would be an understatement.

I fundamentally believe that a partnership such as we had with the Sonics — and will have again when they return — is transformational for our entire community, not just the adults and youth we serve. Their partnership with an adaptive sports league legitimizes our participants as athletes. It helps to get rid of some of the prejudice of folks who may feel sorry for people in a wheelchair until they see what our players can do on the court. It provides an opportunity and audience to break down some of those stereotypes and allows able bodied individuals to see our members in a different light.

We don’t get these opportunities often. I can’t think of another venue where we have the ability to show 18,000 people the amazing skills and athletics that ten people in wheelchairs can accomplish. This opening is not lost on our members, and the possibility of the Sonics coming back is an active conversation at our practices, particularly for the young people in our program who were not around when the team was our partner. They want the Sonics back. They know what it means to them, to our organization and to our community.

The Arena proposal is a good deal for our region, for our economy and most of all, for our kids. Differently abled or able-bodied, it doesn’t matter. They will all benefit from having a team back in town that is integrated into our community. I’ve seen the positive effect the team had in our community in the past and I look forward to seeing it return.

I am quite hopeful that the next team we send to Varsity Nationals at the National Wheelchair Basketball Association will have a chance to play on a Sonics court!

— Tami English

The Arena Will Have a Positive Impact on Businesses

by Mick McHugh
Proprietor, F.X. McRory’s

The day Felix threw his perfect game this season, I was working in the restaurant as usual. It was a beautiful summer day here in Seattle — those of us born here probably thought it was a little too hot — and the restaurant was packed before and after the game. It wasn’t just my restaurant, however. Had you walked through Pioneer Square either before or after the game all of the bars and restaurants in the Square were full.

It is days like these which allow us to continue in business. Come the end of the baseball season and the setting in of the weather and it will be pretty darn quiet in our neck of the woods. Football allows for eight more big days of regular season home games which again fill us up, and we certainly love our Seahawks fans, but those game days are twice a month, leaving a lot of quiet days around the restaurant. My neighbors in Pioneer Square experience the same reality every year and as we’ve seen over the 35 years we have been in business, plenty of establishments don’t make it through what I have come to call “the dark months.”

The new arena has the potential to change all of this and make a difference in the lives of not only the business owners in the area who will benefit, but the staff we will be able to keep on during those quiet times and the additional people we will have to hire as well. It also benefits the city and state, as each additional dollar that comes through my door means an extra nine and a half cents for them. It is hard to ignore the positive impacts this proposal will have on businesses in the area.

But F.X. McRory’s location isn’t the only reason I support this proposal. First, I was an inaugural season ticket holder and kept those seats until the team left. I am a fan and look forward to going to games again – those are some great memories that I and my family have and I am excited to make new ones. Second, I think this is a helluva deal on the table for the city. This is the third time I’ve stood behind and supported a stadium proposal in the neighborhood and, quite frankly, this is easily the best deal we — well, really any city in the country has — ever seen. There’s no new taxes, a string of taxpayer safeguards a mile long, and the commitment of private investment of nearly $1 billion. That is a staggering investment in our community that cannot be overlooked, especially in this economy!

Finally, I am proud to say that I know Chris, I know the man he is and the family he came from and I can tell you he will be a great partner with the city, as team owner and an active member of this community. I know that his commitment to this area is real — that his vision for the team is one that is highly knitted into our city and region. He is exactly the kind of person we want as an owner of a community asset.

Let’s build this thing! Bring back the Sonics and also let’s rejuvenate the great hockey legacy we once had here!

— Mick McHugh

Slick Watts on the Sonics and the Seattle Community

by Slick Watts
Former Seattle SuperSonic

Technically, I was only a Sonic for six seasons but I can tell you from my experience, and from the guys I played with and have known over the years, once you step on the court in front of Seattle fans they make you a Sonic for life. There’s something pretty magical and special about the Seattle fans — it was like that in the 70’s when I played and the guys who came through after me will tell you the same thing.

The fans are why I stayed here in Seattle when I left the NBA, raised my family, put down roots a long way from Rolling Fork, Mississippi where I was born. My kids grew up alongside the kids I was coaching at Franklin and teaching at Brighton. Seattle is where we call home. And because it is home, my family and I have invested so much of our lives in this community. Our foundation, the Watts Foundation, supports youth in need through scholarships to cover out-of-school time activities. And our basketball program reaches thousands of kids each year through clinics, camps and specialized training. On top of all of these activities are the other charitable events, player appearances and key fundraisers we participate in on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

I’m not listing these things off to show you how great I am — the activities above are what most professional basketball players, former and current, do in their community. Detlef has a robust foundation in the region, Gary and Monique continue to have charitable ties here in the area, and Lenny has been a tireless fundraiser for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and other nonprofits over the years. What makes these guys different from the Brandon Roys and Spencer Hawes who are currently playing and are from this area is that those guys I listed — Detlef, Gary, even myself – aren’t home grown. Our ties to this area weren’t forged by being raised here. Our relocation to Seattle was 100% due to the Sonics franchise; our decision to stay connected to this community is largely due to the fans.

See what we’re missing by no longer having a team here? As fans we miss the games, the green and gold, the hunt for another championship. But as a community, we’re missing out on a lot more than that. We’re left without a large and influential entity that can help raise money for key causes, increase awareness about important issues and make a difference in our city and region — particularly with kids.

We have talked a lot during these last few months about transportation and jobs, both of which are important. But somewhere we’ve forgotten to talk about community. About what bringing the Sonics back can do for our city and region, for the young people who look up to professional basketball players and the organizations who serve them.

I hear from kids every day how important it is for the team to come back, how much it will mean to them personally. The excitement I see in their eyes when they talk about the team returning gives me the same feelings I had stepping out onto the hardwood surrounded by green and gold clad Sonics fans. It reminds me why I wanted to be a Sonic — and why I always will be.

— Slick Watts